K-pop: Korean pop music.
J-pop: Japanese pop music.
C-pop: Chinese pop music.
Easy enough, right?
Through the 8 years of living in the small, white-dominated town of Fishkill, I’ve learned that the average Caucasian considers Asian music to be some weird mixture of sounds with awkward voices belting out weird words. They shy away from foreign music, and I, like most, feared the most expected sneers and mocking of liking such music. So, I didn’t. To me, Asian music—and other various parts of the Asian culture—was something only the Asians could enjoy. I mean, stating it so bluntly kind of makes me sound like I was a bit ignorant, but that’s how I honestly saw the world to be—incapable of becoming a completely homogenous society.
The thing I realized in more recent times is that the small town of Fishkill is, in fact, small; there’s this huge world that my little Fishkill can’t even be compared to. This statement most likely sounds undeniably obvious, but I’ve come to realize how exactly true this geographical detail is.
To help expand my view of the world a bit better, I found a little help from YouTube; for the past few weeks I’ve witnessed K-pop music videos pop up under the titles of “Most Viewed,” and “Most Rated.”
But, this simple fact couldn’t possibly make a statement… could it?
Well, I thought about it, and two questions came to mind:
“Is it really that hard to get the most views? I mean look at Rebecca Black…”
“Isn’t it just all viewed by Asians all over the world?… there’s so many of us everywhere.”
After a bit of thought, I concluded with myself that it takes someone really smart to think of a song as dumb as Friday, and that, though the majority of the views must be Asian, not all of them could be. (I mean, isn’t YouTube banned in China?)
Still, a lot of people would read and wonder about how little I do in my free time to observe and look far too deep into such small things. I’d agree…if it wasn’t for my train ride back home some wintry day in December of 2010.
I was going home for winter break, worrying about how I was going to confess to my parents about my horrendous grades for the semester. I went inside the train after waiting a few hours for its arrival, and sat down on the first empty seat I could find. I normally never considered the person sitting next to me to be of any importance other than the awkward fact that we were complete strangers sitting within a distance I personally considered to be too friendly.
This time, however, was a little different—I noticed a few things about the girl I was apparently fated to sit next to, which led to the conversation that might have possibly blown my mind. The first—and main—thing I noticed that sparked my interest was that she was from Poughkeepsie, the city so close to Fishkill. Maybe it was because I recently experienced my first semester of college where I’ve met so many people from all around the world, but to meet someone who lived so close was a friendly thought.
I started the conversation about where we lived and where we were from, which school we attended, what our favorite movies and books were, etc. I was pleasantly surprised that we shared a lot of things in common. Soon, though, the conversation turned to music and I experienced the most interracial-intercultural moment—she loved the Asian trilogy of J-pop, K-pop, and even C-pop.
The kicker? She was African-American.
Maybe to some, this moment may not have been surprising, or even worth the emotions of wonder I continuously experienced long after. But to me, the world seemed to grow a little smaller and a bit brighter. Don’t get me wrong—this moment was far from being dramatic or life changing. Alongside YouTube, this girl, whose name I can’t remember, just proved to me how our views of the world might just be a little limited. Well, how mine were, at least.
And finally, yes, I do realize that this whole experience of epiphanies and realizations was revolved around the minor topic of music. But then again, who knows?
Music can change the world because it can change people. Bono knows what’s good. —Heidi Chu